Deep Blues in the Heart of the North

It would be poignant if it wasn’t so transparently tragic.

After decades of increasing remove from consensual reality, the flickering screen of TV merged with stunning and disorienting advances in technology to reach a point at which commonplace lack of knowledge has been replaced by a surplus of it — pernicious, distracting, often erroneous, plugged directly into the id in round-the-clock dosages, a drug shot to the cortex and limbic systems.

And so we have elected the most transparently odious public political figure in recent memory to lead the most influential, and dangerous, nation on the planet. We have put the levers of almost unimaginable power over the lives of billions into the hands of a petulant man-child whose ego refuses to even allow humility over his victory.

The numbers were shockingly close in Blue Minnesota — pretty much within a statistical margin of error. The alarm in our cities is as profound here as anywhere else. We’ve come to believe we’ve made advances in multiculturalism, equality, and social justice that — while incremental, and painfully not enough for those who have been wronged the longest — at least saw the arrow of history bending in the right direction.

And so we learn that there are millions of us who disagree. We knew this, of course. We’ve heard through the last decade how behaving civilly and professionally toward all people is an imposition tantamount to oppression, how a simple live-and-let-live America is a shocking affront to those for whom anything less than an imposition of their beliefs on others amounts to persecution.

So the next number of years will reveal who imposes their vision, and how sturdy are the checks and balances of the republic. There seems to be little chance that we’ll come to agreement, though it will not be with pleasure that we see our fellow citizens come to realize that, while they knew they voted for a con man and a bully, he will not be their con man and bully. He will always remain his own alone, a trait that he shares more than any other with the villains of history.

Those of us from the cities who love Minnesota know something very important, though. We have stopped for lunch in Hastings, we have spent time in Brainerd, Tower, and the small towns that dot the magnificent landscape that comprises our shared heritage. We have seen the shuttered shops on main streets, the faded lettering of old commerce and the boarded-over hulks of bygone industry.

We have seen dollar stores and the strapped dignity of those who have suffered the disaster of historic fraud, a swindling of the people; they saw the government first help Manhattan bankers who took obscene sums for themselves, then witnessed a slow and partial economic recovery that mainly took place in the cities, the multicultural hubs generating a new nation in which they feel pointedly left out.

It’s easy to retort that life is tough, nothing is guaranteed anyone, and that universal human dignity is beyond debate. But anger is also real, is swells up in the mass consciousness with fury that can break the dams and levees of civilizations. And the consciousness on the left that the banks have bled us dry, and that our progressive leaders have done little to file down Wall Street’s fangs, punish the criminals, or assure us that we won’t be vulnerable to the next round of predations — that’s not restricted to intellectuals and readers of the Times.

It might well be the root of why we’re in this predicament.

Of course nothing excuses electing a volatile, bigoted, troglodytic misogynist to a high office for which he has no qualification other than a savant’s knack for channeling rage and indignity like a goblin of the information age. But those who voted for him are our brothers and sisters, according to both modern day multicultural inclusivity and the tenets of traditional religiosity, and so we try to understand.

Probably the rules of game theory apply: people voted their own interests, feeling profoundly sold out by the system, rolling the dice figuring a slim chance of improvement was better than none. Perhaps they feel that things can literally not get any worse for them.

Though if they had based their decision on history’s lessons, often long and slow and antithetical to the flickering, twitchy pulse of digital fury, they would find multiple and alarming examples of how things can get much, much worse. And that can happen in a very short period of time.

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